In order to be ready, you need to prepare before bringing a lab puppy home – survival checklist is the place to start!
1. Lab Puppy proof the house.
Just like preparing your home for a new baby, everything below your waist that you don’t want knocked down or eaten or chewed needs to go away. Things like dangerous chemicals, solvents, cleaning solutions, paint and other dangerous substances need to be secured. As well you will need to look at cords hanging and things falling on the puppy if they accidentally pull something down. Stairs need to be gated off until your puppy is older and learns how to walk down them without trying to jump off.
2. Purchase a quality dog food.
It never ceases to amaze me how some people end up feeding a low quality food to their dog, or something experimental like a vegan food, or even feed them a so called raw diet and not balance their nutrition requirements. Then when their dog hasn’t developed properly or has other medical issues that could be due to an unbalanced, untested diet they are shocked. The single biggest thing you can do for your dog is feed them a proven diet with nutrients delivered in the proper ratios. A second thing to consider is where your food is made and how you can be notified if there is a recall. At the time of writing this there is a popular food under recall for toxic levels of vitamin D. There have been numerous cases of deaths related to this and yet the company claims they independently test their ingredients. The food we recommend is such because we have years and years of experience (over 13 years) with it using it ourselves and recommending it to those who adopt our puppies. We have actually had so few health issues with our puppies and aging adults eating this food that we have increased our warranty to 4 years and include all major organs. This is beyond other breeders’ basic hip and elbow warranty. Bottom line, feed a high quality proven food from the day you bring your puppy home, not necessarily one with the most protein. Your dog needs balance, being a large breed it shouldn’t grow too quickly, it needs glucosamine and condrointin for their joints and cartilages, and a host of other nutrients in balance for proper absorption. We will provide you with feeding suggestions once you place your reservation for a puppy and a proven puppy food to feed them.
3. Visit the pet store for the required equipment.
You are going to need a large dog crate with a divider so in the beginning your puppy will have just enough room to sleep. Crate training is the best way to protect your puppy while making them safe when unsupervised. In most cases puppies don’t soil where they sleep. As your dog grows you can remove the divider so it has room to lay down and not touch the walls. You will need puppy chew toys and other puppy toys, about 10 of them to cycle so your dog doesn’t get bored. We stock the most popular toys and cover all the different types you will need so that you can get them when you pick up your puppy. They come with explanations of how the different types are used to both stimulate, calm and play with your puppy, how to cycle them, teething, and more. A stainless steel water and food bowl is also another good choice. I would wait on getting a collar so that you can fit them properly. We have inexpensive training leashes that adjust to any size for you to purchase when you are here.
4. Have a family meeting to establish expectations.
Every human in the home will need to follow the same rules consistently so that your puppy understands what is expected of them. Prior to bringing it home you will also have to decide on many things related to raising a puppy such as who takes the puppy out to poop, who walks it, when it’s walked, where your puppy sleeps, who trains it, what commands are you going to use, and so on.
5. Schedule an appointment with a good Veterinarian.
Not all Veterinarians are of equal experience. We have heard some pretty crazy stories, so we suggest you get some referrals of some long term relationships of people you trust for a Vet. You should take your puppy to the vet a couple of days after you get home so it has time to get use to its new surroundings before being taken somewhere. The first few days to weeks will be a time of great change for your puppy so you want to be sure you don’t overwhelm it all at once. That being said, you will need to get it on a good heart worm/flea/tic medicine which will also take care of any worms your puppy gets as well as set up a schedule for the puppy receiving its booster needles at 4 week intervals.
Prepare fore the Drive Home
1. Your puppy can last about 2 or 3 hours without a potty break.
So stop in at a Tim Horton’s somewhere and give everyone an opportunity to relieve themselves before you pick up your puppy. You won’t want to get going on your way and have to stop for one of the kids 30 minutes into the drive and wake your sleeping puppy back up.
2. You’ll need a water bowl and some water.
We normally feed your puppy early in the morning on the day of pick up so that it has time to go potty before the drive home. Our recommendation is to give your puppy some water every 3 hours and then let them have a pee. This could also go along with letting them play or explore outside a bit.
3. When you stop, find an unused grassy space to potty on.
One puppy tip we try to get everyone to understand is that if you stop at a rest stop, don’t let your puppy out where everyone else would let their dogs out. Until your dog is completely vaccinated you will want to keep your puppy out of dog parks and away from strange dogs’ urination and defecation spaces. You can’t be sure if they have anything that your puppy is not yet protected against, so choose a play spot where you think no other dogs would commonly go. We carry the correct puppy-sized collars as well as training leashes if you chose to purchase one from us so that your puppy will be secure on their ride home when stopping in the grass and if they try to bolt you won’t have to worry about a collar that is too loose and will slip off.
Arriving at home with your puppy
1. First quickly bring them to the spot you want them to potty. This is the beginning of your dog being house trained. They will likely have to go right after you get out of the car. So when you stop, give them a drink in the area you want them to relieve themselves in. Wait until they go and then you can take them into the home.
2. Treat your puppy like a puppy.
It is breakable and will be a puppy for about a year. Don’t force it to run, rather let it exert itself at a level it is comfortable at. Things like playing with larger dogs and such should be carefully supervised.
3. Constant supervision.
Your new puppy needs to be constantly supervised until they can be trusted and you know that they understand the rules. Constant supervision means either you or someone watching them, they are in their crate (the crate is the supervisor), or that they are in a section of the home baby-gated off or also an outside run with a kennel and a cement floor so they cannot dig under the fence (yes they will dig).
4. After a potty bring your puppy to the room with their crate.
Introducing them to their crate perhaps with a few pieces of kibble in it will show them where their safe space is. This is also where they need to be comfortable enough to self-calm and fall asleep.
5. If you have another dog, first introduce them outside on neutral territory.
Bringing a new puppy and simply coming straight into the home could have one of three effects. The first being that both dogs might be ok with it. Second is that the older dog has an issue with a new strange animal in its territory. This would result in your older dog being defensive, maybe even protective or possibly anxious and scared and once this has happened it is out there. Undoing this type of trauma could take days or weeks. The third thing that could happen is that your puppy becomes traumatized because of your older dog’s behavior. So, because of these risks it’s best to allow the dogs to meet on the road, on neutral territory, let the older dog walk up from behind and sniff the puppy. Don’t convey a nervous attitude to either dog by having a tight leash or through your words or actions. Relax and let them get to know each other and all will be good.
6. After some get familiar time begin training your puppy (without distractions) using Positive Reinforcement training methods.
We suggest that everyone participates in some training classes either in a group format or private. The important thing to understand is that you are training you to train your puppy. You can’t send your puppy away to be trained and then not continue with this at home. Like moving to France and learning to speak French, if you don’t continue it once you return you will lose it. Your puppy will also lose any training it has done if it is not reinforced by everyone in the home. Other resources are 80 Puppy Training tips that you can learn as well as an excellent site with video called Puppy Trained Right . We have a discount code available for those who are taking home one of our puppies.
Preparing for your puppy’s first night.
1. Take your puppy’s water away
A few hours before bedtime remove their water and feed them between 4 and 6 pm. This will allow them time to eliminate most of their food and urine and will give a better chance of sleeping the night without having to go potty.
2. Prepare their crate in a quiet, dark spot.
Make it a sleepy place, place a blanket over the top and down 3 sides to block draft and to make it den-like. Take out any dangerous toys that they may choke on and take their collar off so they don’t get it caught somewhere on the crate.
3. Some mild exercise or training just before bed.
Just like a human, you want them to be tired before bed. So for example if you let them sleep from 9 to 11 pm they may not need to go down at 11 to sleep. The last while before bed try to stimulate them mentally and physically so that they are ready to turn in. This can be training sessions, a walk, a play session or even fetch in the house.
4. One final potty around 11 pm.
After you prepare them for sleep take them out one more time and give them ample time to relieve themselves. Bring them back in, let them settle in the crate, put an item of clothing in there that smells like you for them to snuggle on. *The old wives tale of wiping a towel where their litter was or on their mother is not a good idea. Because they will never be with their mother or their litter again you don’t want to constantly remind them of it by giving them the scent. The quicker they learn the new pack and learn to settle in the crate the better and that happens by not reminding them of their old litter. If they smell their old litter they will whine for them to find them.
5. Settling in their crate.
Once your puppy goes down you will want to be teaching your puppy that the time in their crate is for sleep, they are safe in there, and that if they bark or whine they cannot summon you to save them. So, what if they really have to go? This is something you will have to figure out. It may be possible that they must go outside to relieve themselves, but, they may also just want you to hold or feed them. So in the middle of the night, if they whine and don’t stop, try taking them out to go. If they go, just put them back in their crate to settle and go back to sleep. Don’t talk or stimulate them. If they didn’t go then they were just lonely for you. You will know within reason that next time they are just lonely. This normally stops after about 2 or 3 days.
Your puppy’s first morning.
1. Whoosh them out to their pee spot.
They will likely have to go around 5 or 6 am and will be ready so don’t wait. Pick them up and carry them quickly to their pee spot. When they go reward them with praise and say the potty word that you use. We use the word “pee” for both pee and poop.
2. Feed, and then woosh them out again to their pee spot.
Puppies often need to poop right after they eat, or sometimes while they are eating. Watch them carefully while they are eating so you don’t miss it and they poop on the floor in the home.
3. Some exercise, training and mental stimulation.
After waking up and eating they will be ready for a walk and some training. This is a great time to get some exercise so that they don’t have a ton of built up energy they need to release.
4. Setting them up for their first full day in the home.
Plan their day out so that there is a balance of play, training, napping, eating, and potty. In the beginning your puppy will need about 20 hours or so of sleep a day so be sure it is getting enough. If your puppy gets nippy they may be trying to tell you they are tired and want to be left alone in their crate. Every opportunity that your puppy presents in the form of nipping is a training opportunity to teach bite inhibition.
Coming home to your puppy after work.
1. Learning how to greet them.
If you work full time it is important to understand that a young puppy cannot hold their bladders for more than 3 or 4 hours. If you work full time you will need someone to watch them or at least visit them once or twice during the shift to let them out, drink and play. When you arrive home this is the time to teach them manners. Most dogs will be excited and will jump on you to greet you. Be sure you teach them how you want them to greet people. We will teach a dog to sit in front of us before it gets any attention. No attention means no talking, no eye contact and no touching.
2. Will they need to relieve themselves?
If they have been in a crate you will likely need to let them go potty, a walk or some fetching would also be good at this time because they likely have some energy to expend. If they do and you don’t provide an outlet for them you have to expect them to be rowdy inside the house and also unmanageable.
3. Training pre or post feeding?
Some Labradors respond to training better before they eat and others don’t. There are also some Labs who are not food motivated. That’s right, they are more people focused than food focused. So if your Lab is not responding well to training after they are fed, you may want to train them before eating so the hunger is on your side.
4. Socialization with people other than your family, and animals other than those in the home.
While socializing you want to expose them to many people while not overwhelming them. To start we recommend 1 new person each morning and one new place each night. After you can see that your puppy is not overwhelmed you may decide to increase the frequency of exposure to new places, animals and things.
5. Prepare for night time routine.
Get your new furball ready for bed time as outlined above.
Setting your puppy up for success.
1. Avoiding dog parks and strange dogs.
Until your puppy is fully vaccinated around 14 weeks old they are vulnerable to other diseases by unknown dogs. By all means, if you know someone who has a dog and you can verify that their dog is up to date on all shots such as Parvo, Rabies, Leptospirosis, Kennel Cough, Distemper, Hepatitis, Corona and Para Influenza,
2. Get into a reputable training class or private training with a reputable trainer.
Training classes are mainly to train you. Sure your dog will learn in them but you and all humans in the home will need to learn how to maintain your dog’s learning. Ask around in your area for a recommendation of a good trainer at a reasonable price.
3. Gentle, regular exposure to everyone and everything.
For example, while you are exposing them to people you will need to expose them to female babies, toddlers, pre teens, teenagers, young adult women, middle aged women and older women. You will need to include women with glasses, hats, soft voices, loud voices, etc…. Don’t leave anything out especially using you tube to condition them that thunderstorms and fireworks are ok for them.
4. Adjust their food as they grow and as their activity level increases or decreases.
Don’t feed according to instructions by your dog food company. If for example your dog is much more active or much less active then the recommended feeding amount will not be correct. Instead use your eyes. You want to see a definite stomach, you want to see where the rib cage is but you don’t want to see individual ribs. You might have to adjust the food amounts up or down as your Labrador gets more or less activity.
5. Positive Reinforcement training by everyone in the pack.
When you get into your car and you to go somewhere, you tell your gps where you want to go. Dogs are the same way. Your gps will not work if you tell your gps all the places you don’t want to go just like your dog won’t learn if you are constantly scolding it and telling it no. It is simply not effective to punish your dog and it doesn’t work as a training method. Instead teach your dog what you want it to do. Instead of scolding, simply withdraw your attention. This is enough punishment. Then, get back to showing your dog what you want it to do.
6. If your puppy is not eating or has a loose bowel movement.
Not eating much is pretty common when a puppy goes to its new home, however if it stops drinking then that would be cause for an immediate vet visit. In a new home your puppy might not be comfortable for a couple of days and eating might be just grazing. This is ok as long as it is drinking and seems to be playful. Loose bowel movements in the beginning could be due to nerves or your puppy could also have a parasite. At this young age puppies put everything, and I mean everything into their mouths. They even eat mouse droppings that we can’t even see from the height we are at. It is quite common for puppies to get loose stool from a parasite. This can be addressed easily if you take a stool sample into your Vet for analysis.
7. What is a puppy emergency that requires a visit to the vet?
Our rules for an emergency trip to the vet are: Uncontrollable bleeding, puppy not breathing properly, broken bone, puppy is not drinking and appears lethargic. If any of these present themselves you may want to consider getting help right away. Other things can normally wait until the next morning to be addressed because they are not critical. Depending on where you live however you may have a vet that is open 24 hours and even on the weekends.
So this is a start for you to think about when you take a Labrador Puppy home. There is a lot to think about and while you are doing all of that, don’t forget to love your Lab and enjoy the puppy phase because it passes very quickly!